Make It Count: A Fair Compensation Congregation

26 March 2018

These past few Sundays I’ve talked to a lot of people visiting the pledge table in Eliot Hall. It’s always nice to see old friends and make new ones, but what’s been especially interesting is hearing people talk about why they pledge. Most don’t think twice before answering; their response is immediate and enthusiastic and just rolls off their tongues: they love First Unitarian Church. (There’s a lot of love in and for our church!) Fewer people offer more concrete explanations, referring to this program or that committee or a certain cause; I heard religious education and sanctuary and the caring network, social justice and small group ministry and music. Among many answers—and really good reasons as to why people give to the church—one stood out: a 9 o’clock service attendee, who I don’t see often because I’m usually with the 11 o’clock crowd, replied, with the same spontaneity and conviction as those declaring their love for the church, “because I want the staff to get paid. That’s social justice, too.”  

Obviously, church staff work hard every Sunday, and it’s not like they have the other six days off, as I used to think when I was pondering my career choices in middle school. Running a church is a huge enterprise, and an expensive one, too. Do you know how large our church’s staff is? Do you know how many events the church hosts each year? It’s mind-boggling. Last year, prior to significant changes in religious education and before the sanctuary family joined us—two developments that have caused a dramatic increase in activity this year—the church hosted more than 1,000 events. This number includes private parties, but those, too, are work for church staff. We had more than 500 community events at the church, plus numerous untracked events outside the building, most of them working towards our mission of advancing a progressive and just world. Of the full-time staff, nobody works fewer than 40 hours; most work more, including early mornings, evenings, holidays, and, well, Sundays. Assistant Minister Monica Dobbins told me about “ministry units” of 4 hours each; full-time ministers meet a standard of 12 ministry units per week, although Monica noted that it’s all too easy to work 14 units. She tries to protect one full day each week and keep it to two work evenings, however, that’s not always, or even often, possible. Senior Minister Tom Goldsmith added that many of the congregation’s pastoral needs—cries for help in the darkest hour—don’t follow a schedule, but that pastoring is the most humbling aspect of ministry, and, for him, its greatest privilege. 

What about the number of staff? Did you come up with eighteen? If so, you’re much more observant than me. I didn’t realize that First Church employs five full-time and twelve part-time staff, plus a ministerial intern. I’m a member of the church, and it made me proud to learn that we are a Fair Compensation Congregation. This means our church meets strict guidelines set by the Unitarian Universalist Association, which prescribe compensation packages based on qualifications, experience, and location that include benefits (paid time off, health and dental insurance, retirement contributions, etc.). Where does the money come from, you ask? From you and me: from friends and members of the church. From people who pledge. Our pledge is an investment into the staff of this church, who Make It Count every day—in our congregation and the larger community.  

The goal for the pledge drive is a 5% increase over last year’s actual pledge revenue, or $583,000. This number reflects the increased financial needs of our church in 2018-19. The next fiscal year begins July 1, and your pledge this month will allow church leadership determine the budget and start planning for next year. The 5% increase is necessary not only because our congregation is growing—rapidly so!—but because our staff need, and deserve, a 2% cost-of-living adjustment. We want to remain a fair compensation congregation, and this adjustment is necessary and overdue. When you make your pledge, I want you to do so because you love this church, like I do. In addition, I want you to give because you want the staff to get fairly compensated. As the 9 o’clocker said: that’s social justice, too.

Please stop by Eliot Hall after an upcoming service; I look forward to talking to you about why you pledge. – Melanie, Pledge Committee